Can money fix slavery? (2023)

UETrevelyan's aura comes from a long line of distinguished historians. His great-grandfather was the esteemed Cambridge history professor GM Trevelyan and Laura, a BBC journalist, has written her memoir of the family's past. But it wasn't until 2016 that he discovered an uncomfortable truth: some of his ancestors owned as many as 1,000 slaves on the Caribbean island of Grenada. This discovery changed the course of his life.

She "archived the information" for several years, she told me last week, until the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, and the Black Lives Matter protests that have spread around the world, leading her to to ask questions. Last month, that took her to Granada, where she and six other people wereFamily members arrived to apologize for their ancestors and pledged £100,000 for the island.

Trevelyan, 54, is one example of a growing wave of individuals, families, institutions and legislators who have considered or fully embraced the policy of reparations: cash payments to descendants of Africans trafficked across the Atlantic to work on plantations of slaves in America and America for Caribbean work. .

Can money fix slavery? (1)

A statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston was toppled by protesters in Bristol in 2020

(Video) The Reparations Debate: Should America Compensate the Descendants of Slaves? | The Daily Show


Last week, The Guardian published a surprise apology, revealing that nine of its first 11 backers were involved in the slave trade through textile and cotton manufacturing, including its founding editor John Edward Taylor. The Scott Trust, the group that owns The Guardian, has pledged to invest more than £10 million to improve the lives of black people in Britain and around the world.

The issue of repair is complex. Some believe the promotion will lead to further divisions by encouraging other minority groups to seek compensation for any historical damage done to their ancestors. Most Britons are not descended from slave owners; Why should they be blamed for the slave trade?

However, the idea of ​​paying reparations for national grievances is not new. In 1988, the US government paid $1.6 billion to Japanese-Americans interned in concentration camps during World War II; Each surviving member of this horrible act received $20,000. However, in June 2013, the UK government announced that it would pay £20 million in compensation to Kenyans who had been mistreated and tortured during the Mau Mau uprising in the 1950s.

However, the best known case of a nation paying reparations for past wrongdoing is Germany. In 1951, West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer personally apologized for the Holocaust, and beginning in 1952, the West German government paid reparations to living Jewish victims of Nazi persecution through a series of agreements signed with the state.

Can money fix slavery? (2)

In California, a reparations task force estimated that eligible black adults could receive $5 million each


(Video) Dr. George Fraser: How Black people will go into a 2nd slavery

But these cases are amends to the living victims. Reparations for slavery are different: they are paid to the descendants of enslaved Africans centuries after the ordeal of their ancestors. The arguments against it are numerous. Some would argue that slavery is not exclusive to Britain or other former colonial powers in Europe; that the act of taking a person as a slave has been a constant throughout human history and the rest of the world. It could be argued that Britain was one of the first nations to abolish the slave trade and spent much of the 19th century using the navy to stifle the transatlantic slave trade; Some will argue that this is Britain's redemption, done and dusted.

Trevelyan and various historians disagree. They claim that the British who say slavery has nothing to do with them miss the point. Britain grew rich from the slave trade. Its Caribbean colonies became impoverished after the abolition of slavery. As historian David Olusoga recently wrote: “If we can inherit wealth and benefit from compound interest over the centuries, don't we also inherit liability? After all, the tentacles of this story don't sit well in the past."


And while slaveholders were financially compensated £20 million (equivalent to over £17 billion today) after slavery was abolished in the British colonies, slaves received nothing when they were freed. Britain did not pay the debt owed to slave owners until 2015. Paying off the descendants of the enslaved, therefore, is not just a case of mercy. It is also about justice.

Last month Trevelyan announced he was leaving his job at the BBC to deal with the problem full-time. His family signed the CARICOM Reparations Commission's ten-point plan. CARICOM, a 15-nation political and economic coalition, calls on former colonial powers like Britain to apologize for slavery and fund health and education services in the Caribbean. All of this, Trevelyan tells me, is to make up for the fact that "the enslaved" got "virtually nothing on abolition." The £100,000 donated by the family will be used to fund educational projects in Grenada. Trevelyan sees this "as a way to build a better future for the descendants of the enslaved."

Can money fix slavery? (3)

(Video) Traveling back in time to stop Slavery

Five years after Ta-Nehisi Coates advocated for reparations in an essay for The Atlantic, he appeared before a congressional committee on the issue.


In 2020, following a racial awakening similar to that of the Trevelyan family, Dr Cassandra Gooptar of the University of Nottingham and a group of other historians were hired by the Scott Trust to investigate the past of slave owners for The Guardian. The newspaper did not explain exactly how the £10m will be distributed, but has pledged to recruit more black trainee journalists on scholarships and fund a leadership program for more experienced journalists.

Clive Lewis, Labor MP for Norwich South, calls for government action on reparations in the Caribbean. But for the most part, the drive for reparations in this country is not being led by politicians, but by individuals and corporations.


In the United States, however, it is a national debate. Reparations in America are associated with a set of beliefs (Critical Race Theory) that challenge the idea that America was founded on liberty and equality. Proponents of this ideology argue that racism is so entrenched that the only way to improve American society is radical change: abolish prisons, overrule the police, and obtain reparations. The most outspoken proponent of reparations is writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, who penned a June 2014 cover essay for The Atlantic magazine titled The Case for Reparations.

Five years later, in June 2019, he testified at a congressional subcommittee hearing on reparations. The panel agreed to draft a bill to create a commission to examine the legacy of slavery and pay reparations. That bill has been stalled in the Senate, and activists are urging President Biden to issue an executive order signing it into law.

Can money fix slavery? (4)

Remi Adekoya: 'What good is a British apology to a poor Jamaican today? What can improve people's lives is money."

(Video) CA to Give Reparations for Slavery!?

Another speaker at that hearing was writer and broadcaster Coleman Hughes, who offered a nuanced assessment of the repairs. "I worry that our desire to fix the past," he said, "jeopardizes our ability to fix the present." Hughes, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Political Research, believes reparations "to black Americans who really grew up under Jim Crow and were directly harmed by the second-class citizenship they should be paid: people like my grandparents." He argues that paying compensation to the descendants of those enslaved would be a mistake.

Despite this, the US government is considering asking black Americans in the census if their ancestors were enslaved. This would distinguish black descendants of slaves in the United States from those whose families recently arrived as immigrants from Africa, and thus allow for a fair distribution of damage if the government implements the policy.

Some of the most radical ideas are developed at the state and local level. The San Francisco Legislature is considering recommendations to address inequality, including paying $5 million in reparations to every eligible black adult for decades of racist treatment by the city. The Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank, estimates it would cost each non-black family in the city $600,000. For the state of California, economists have estimated repair costs at $800 billion; The state of California has an annual budget of $300 billion. The policy would have to be approved by the state legislature, which is unlikely.

In addition to costs, the question of who gets what and how the guidelines are implemented are likely to be the biggest hurdles. For example, if the issue is helping the descendants of Africans who were trafficked to the Caribbean, will The Guardian help young black journalists of Caribbean descent rather than black Africans whose ancestors were not trafficked?

Whatever the answer, the conversation won't end anytime soon, says Remi Adekoya, a professor of politics at York University. The case for reparations "will only get bigger and more numerous over time in line with demographic changes in our world: growing black populations and declining white populations," he says. For Adekoya, it's not just about apologizing. It's about money. “What use are British apologies to a poor Jamaican today? What can improve people's lives is money. Money for education, money for infrastructure, money for development.”


(Video) The Sad Truth About American Slave Breeding Farms

Behind every practical question of financial compensation is the emotional question of wounded pride. For many who advocate reparations, it is as much about trying to regain a sense of dignity from the colonial powers that humiliated them in the past as anything else. It's also unclear if the issue would be "resolved" once the repairs were paid for. If there is one lesson from history, the theme for which the Trevelyan family is famous, is that thorny moral questions are never fully resolved.


1. Monetary Slavery
(Isten Ostora)
2. Why is Africa Still So Poor?
(History Scope)
3. The Atlantic Slave Trade: What Schools Never Told You
(Black Culture Unlocked)
4. Key & Peele - Auction Block
(Comedy Central)
5. The Atlantic slave trade: What too few textbooks told you - Anthony Hazard
6. How Elites Will Create a New Class of Slaves | Whitney Webb | The Glenn Beck Podcast | Ep 162
(Glenn Beck)


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